How to keep priority #1 – Communicate.

Does creating your priority list cause you anxiety?   At times, my to-do lists are overflowing with a million things.  I struggle determining which item is the top priority which creates worry in-and-of-itself.   Now that I have moved into ‘semi-retirement’ I finally found the most important way of How to keep priority #1 – Communicate.

I have a volunteer role running a club whose facilities have become rundown due to age.  We have no money and few volunteers to assist in the tasks. We began a renovation project painting a concrete deck.  The job had a long list of items; remove the dirty chairs from the deck, power-wash, fill cracks, repair holes, prime and finally stain. One of the volunteers had a valuable skill-set of being able to repair concrete.

As we began the project, some of the areas required little maintenance and allowed us to paint right away.  Others needed repairs that were costly and time-consuming as each hole required two days to dry and had to be sanded and primed before  cleaning and painting.   In my mind, we needed to fix the obvious holes and merely fill the cracks with the sealer that comes in a bottle.  Holes like this one to me, could be filled with filler.  Yes, I am wrong. 

Unbeknownst to the rest of us, our concrete mason repaired a few holes and discovered the foundation of the deck was weak.   In her mind, and wisely thinking if you have unlimited time and a budget to pay for the materials, the right thing to do was to hammer away the weak concrete.  Before we knew it, broken concrete and large holes to fill had become the top priority.

Knowing how hard it is to get volunteers I sat with the mason and discussed our lack of funds, time, and  the number of people needed to do this for every block.   We agreed to re-set the priority. We patched up the holes and finished the job.  Some of it was done with the expertise needed, the rest, was covered over doing the best we could with the resources at hand.

This example is similar to how often employees may think they are doing an ‘important task’.  However, it may not align with the priority that the boss or owner may have.   Too often we find ourselves being stressed out about doing a job perfectly. At times we may be doing a job that does not need to be done, as the manager may have other priorities in mind.

Lesson learned –  be sure your priorities are in line with what your manager has in mind.  When overwhelmed with too many requirements, ask which priority is #1.

On the home-front – My number one priority in life is family.  Most of us I hope would say the same thing, whether we are a husband, wife, or son/daughter.    Too often, I have made the mistake of deciding what my wife or kids want, as I think I know exactly what the right way and right thing is for them.  For instance, my wife pointed out the bathroom needs to be painted.

Instantly I am off to the hardware store to buy paint, spackling, and grout to re-do the tile (as we all know if you are going to paint you have to do all the other stuff as well).  I was ready to put ‘family first’.   Little did I know – my wife had no time-frame for painting the bathroom.  In fact, after buying all the stuff she realized the little request to touch up the room was going to turn into a three-day project.

She stopped me and said, ‘you are constantly doing things.’  I was hoping the bathroom idea would make you stay in the house for a little while and we could spend some time together.  I thought we would discuss doing some renovations and chat about what is important and what is not.  Despite being married over thirty years, I still miss the queue of what she really wanted which was for us to sit down and have a cup of coffee and talk.  Not just for that moment and that subject, but more often.

The lesson I have to keep learning, if you want to know how to keep priority #1 – communicate!

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When asked what is the most important commandment one should keep, Jesus responded with not only the most important commandment, but the #1 priority we all should value the most:   ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.” (see Mt. 22:34-40 in NLT version for full context) 

There are many opinions on what it means to ‘love God’ with everything you have.   Some would translate it as selling everything you have and giving it to the poor.  Some would say go to church regularly, some memorize Bible verses every day, and on and on we could go.

The best description is similar to painting a bathroom vs. spending time with your spouse. Jesus showed which was most important when comparing two sisters viewpoint of their relationship with Him:

“As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.”

 The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.” (Luke 10:38-14 MSG)  

Lesson learned –  be sure your priorities are in line with what God considers most important, it usually is in communicating with Him.

Practically speaking, how do you communicate with God?  Pastor Mark Appleyard describes spending time with God through reading the Bible as a primary way to begin and carry on a conversation:  “As we read God’s words, we begin to see how God responds to things. Doing daily devotions re-patterns the way we think and transforms the spirit of the mind. Then, when we face similar situations as Jesus did, we begin to respond in the same way and we begin to GROW in our faith!”

He suggests journaling as a great way to remember and pen our thoughts, He states, ‘Journaling is an excellent way to both record and process what God has spoken to us.’   See here for a complete description of a great way to start the habit of communicating regularly with God.

Better yet, Mark has recently released a new book titled ‘Think, Speak, Live Business from Heaven’s perspective‘.  It is the best book I have read on how to learn to communicate with God in a very practical manner.  I love how it brings the everyday business activities that each of us lives daily. He ties it to a continuous ‘conversation’ that can be applied all day long, not only on Sunday.  This is a must have to own.

Perhaps you struggle as I do in finding that balance between the long to-do list of Christian activities and that of loving God with everything you have.   The real answer to How to keep priority #1 – Communicate!

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